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Product review: New dog-walking hip pack from Tom Bihn

The last dog-walking hip bag I really liked was the OllyDog Walker, but it’s no longer available and there are days — especially hot days — when I look at it and think dang, that’s huge. I was happy, therefore, to catch a glimpse of the Citizen Canine, a new waist pack from Tom Bihn. Tom Bihn is a Seattle company I love — we own a range of their products, including their TSA-friendly laptop bag, the Imago messenger bag I carried around Paris, and a slew of organizing pouches. I wrote to the company and asked if they’d send me a Citizen Canine to review. I have not been paid for this review, and I did not promise (and Tom Bihn did not request) that it would be positive. Because the Canine Citizen costs more than $40, I will be giving the entire packet Tom Bihn sent me (total value: $95) to one lucky Dog Jaunt reader. I’ll provide the giveaway details in a separate post on Monday, January 30.

The Tom Bihn products we own are beautifully designed and very well made. They wear like iron. They’re also costly, but given their advantages, that’s been a downside I can accept. So it is with the Citizen Canine.

The pack, made of ballistic nylon twill, measures 6.5″ tall, 5.5″ wide, and 3″ deep. I was given my choice, so of course I requested a vibrant lime green (“Kiwi”) twill, lined with a purple check; the pack also comes in black, forest green, gray, navy, and cardinal red.

The top 2/3 of the pack is a compartment with a drawstring top that is primarily meant to hold treats but can hold a ChuckIt! ball (or two of the small ones). Back when we were taking Chloe to obedience classes, the treat pouch would have been welcome — it stays open nicely, so you can quickly reach in, even in mid-walk. These days, the ChuckIt! ball option is more useful. In fact, the opening is wide and deep enough to hold a small H2O4K9 water bottle (the Frog Green bottle matches the Kiwi Canine Citizen, by the way) or a small Gulpy water bottle, but since the bottle might fall out when I bend over, it’s not a perfect option. My preference, as you’ll see, is to hook the water bottle on the side of the Canine Citizen.

The bottom third of the pack holds a roll of poop bags, which dispense via a toothed plastic grommet. Normally, poop bag grommets don’t work because the roll of bags gets wedged inside its compartment. Every other poop bag dispenser I own has to be zipped open so I can unwind the next bag by hand. That’s not tragic, of course, but what joy to find that Tom Bihn’s dispenser actually dispenses poop bags smoothly and reliably. The secret is a center rod that holds the roll of bags like a roll of toilet paper. It works like a charm.

There’s a small pocket above the poop bag grommet; on the other side of the bag, there’s a deeper pocket that will easily hold a cell phone. I hesitate to call either side the front or back, because on the deep-pocket side is a strap onto which you can clip an (optional) Guardian Dual Function light (flashing or steady, depending on how you orient the battery). If I were walking at night, I’d certainly put that side outwards; otherwise, I’d be likely to put the poop bag side outwards for easy access.

The Canine Citizen comes with a shoulder strap. I’m not a fan of shoulder straps, so I was happy to see that Tom Bihn had sent me the optional waist strap, which works well. Please note that it’s devilishly difficult to get the shoulder strap off the hip pack, but it can be done. Whichever option you choose, you’ll end up with a pair of available, unused twill loops (since I’m a waist-strap gal, my unused loops would be the ones on the short sides of the pack). I suggest that you buy a large S-biner (at least a size 4) and pass one end through a loop, allowing you to hook a water bottle onto the other end.

Both kinds of straps have two “leash clips” attached to them, which are sized to hold a(n optional) Krebs Recycle Leash. We have one, it turns out (I’ve long gotten over my concern about trigger-style clips), but Tom Bihn sent me one, and it fits securely in the clips.

The shoulder strap is still attached because I didn't have the energy to take it off for the photo, then put it back on for the lucky winner of the upcoming giveaway. Imagine that it's not there. Please note that I'm wearing the pack with the flashlight (and phone pocket) side facing outwards.

This is a feature I can get behind. When we go to the dog park, I find myself juggling leash, water bottle, ChuckIt! launcher, and at least two ChuckIt! balls — this pack would corral the mess. In fact, the clips are sized to secure a ChuckIt! launcher:

Here I am, demo-ing the shoulder strap option (ignore the waist straps, still attached). You can carry the ChuckIt! launcher on the waist strap too -- it lies horizontally across your butt.

I thoroughly approve of this hip pack. Its only flaw, as far as I’m concerned, is that it doesn’t have a water bottle solution — but I can live with either of my workarounds. At $55 (plus shipping), it is pricey. If you spring for all the add-ons (leash, light, waist strap), you’ll be paying $95 (plus shipping). The workmanship and design are impressive, however, and I know from experience with our other Tom Bihn bags that it will stand up to a heck of a lot of use and abuse.

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